By: Joe Strupp
Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman of The Hartford Courant have won the prestigious Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting for their series about the U.S. military’s recruitment and deployment of mentally ill soldiers in Iraq.
The $35,000 annual prize, presented by the School of Journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, recognizes the year’s “outstanding work in investigative journalism that led to direct results.”
“Beginning in May 2006, the Courant published a series of articles detailing how the U.S. military is sending troops with serious psychological problems into Iraq and is keeping soldiers in combat even after superiors have been alerted to suicide warnings and other signs of mental illness,” a statement from the award’s judges said. “The Hartford reporters documented the tragic consequences, including suicides among unstable recruits. As a result of the Courant’s reporting, Congress has mandated new mental health screening for recruits and set limits on how long troubled soldiers can be required to stay in a war zone.”
Michael Parks, former editor of the Los Angeles Times and current director of the Annenberg School of Journalism, said the series shows the importance of investigative reporting during today’s tough budgetary times. “Even as news organizations adapt to the challenges of a volatile media landscape, the critical importance of good investigative reporting that holds our institutions accountable for policies and practices that harm the vulnerable in society will not diminish,” he said.
Three finalists for the award included: Bloomberg News for its series “Duping Main Street,” which reported on large financial institutions’ shady bond dealings; the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for reporter Meg Kissinger’s series “Abandoning Our Mentally Ill,” which reported on poor housing for low-income mentally ill; and The Seattle Times for “Your Courts, Their Secrets,” which documented how judges improperly sealed hundreds of civil court cases. Ken Armstrong, Justin Mayo, and Steve Miletich led that effort.
The Selden Ring award presentation is set for April.